Protein Packed Autumnal Dhal

By Nisha Patel -


My lovely mum recently visited me. I haven’t seen her for five years as she lives in an ashram in India, where she’s been for the past 13 years. To say a lot has happened since the last time she was here is an understatement-we bought a house, had two beautiful girls and settled into domestic yet chaotic bliss.

My mum is a beautiful soul. She’s kind and finds love in her heart for every person she meets. Growing up she was forever patient and tolerant. She’s non-judgemental and hates idle gossip, alway opting for seeing the good in people. I’m constantly comparing my mothering style to hers and try to incorporate the wisdom she imparted into my life.

Seeing my dear mother greet my daughters for the first time was emotional to say the least. The first meeting between grandma (“Ba” in Gujarati) and the girls was not quite how I anticipated. The girls can be quite shy meeting new people, but this was definitely not the case. As soon as Ariya greeted Ba at the door, she ran with open arms and jumped on her. Saoirse waited patiently for her turn and then ran over and gave her a long loving hug as if she was greeting a dear love. It was the kind of hug that is usually only reserved for her Dadda and I. It was one of those heart-warming moments. Even though we’d explained to the girls that their Ba was visiting, we didn’t really expect them to fully understand. However, it was precious to see that the bond between family seemed to be stronger and deeper than words can explain.

During her stay my mum did a lot of cooking and taught me a few new dishes. The girls loved her Chapatis (Rotis), with Ariya determined to make them with her. It was so cute seeing her armed with her little red rolling-pin making miniature chapatis.  Saoirse was also trying to get in on the action, but had to make do with eating playing with chapati dough instead.

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My mum is a fantastic cook and taught me a new dhal recipe, which she’d never made in my childhood. This dal contain a beautiful pale green vegetable called dhudi (bottle gourd).

The pale green dhudi is a fibrous vegetable and its juice is used in India as a weight loss tool as it’s low in calories but high in fibre, hence very filling. My mum also informed me that its juice is used as a natural rehydration therapy for people who have diarrhoea and vomiting. In addition to this, it can also be used for helping the symptoms of cystitis by making the urine less acidic.



The recipe also has channa dal (spilt chickpeas), which is both high in fibre and protein. 100g of dry channa dal containing 20g of protein.



Vegetarian food is often falsely accused of being low in protein, but this dhal is protein packed with one serving providing a 25% of your daily recommended intake.

Pure glucose has a glycaemic index (GI) of 100 while channa dhal has a GI under 10. This low GI means it won’t cause spikes in blood glucose levels hence energy is released slowly leaving you to feel fuller for longer. By eating channa dal you’ll less likely want to snack between meals, so it is great for people who are on a calorie restricted diet and also for diabetics.


My mum only uses ginger and spices to flavour this dhal, but I couldn’t resist adding my favourites onions and garlic.



This dhal is not only wholesome and tasty, but also reassuringly comforting in the cold winter months. I find it perfect at lunchtime as it prevents that after lunch tiredness that I often suffer from. It gives me that much needed energy boost that takes me through the hectic afternoons and keeps me going through to the girls’ bedtime.



My mum has now gone back to India, but I’m glad she showed me this recipe as I hope to make it a regular feature on my weekly menu. It’s warm comforting taste will remind me of the precious time we enjoyed together and make me to look forward to the next time we hopefully meet.



Ingredients  (four people)

1 Dudhi (bottle gourd)

250g channa daal (split chick peas)

2 tbs olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

half an onion

thumb size piece of ginger

3 tsp coriander powder

3 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp turmeric

1tsp of salt (you can add to taste at end)

4 cloves

1 small stick of cinnamon

1 dried red chilli

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tin of tomato (or fresh tomatoes blitz in a food processor)

half a lemon

water to right consistency


1) Roughly chop the dhudi into chunks.

2) Finely dice the onions, garlic and ginger.

3) Add oil to a pressure cooker and let it heat up for a few minutes. Once hot, add dried red chilli and leave for 30 seconds.

4) Add the cloves and cinnamon stick for a further minute.

5) Add black mustard seeds and cumin seeds.

6) Add the Dudhi and fry for 5 minutes.

7) Add the spice powders and salt and allow to cook for another 5 minutes stirring, so all the flavours mix nicely

8) Add tomatoes and mix everything together for a few minutes

9) Add the channa daal and mix for another few minutes

10) Now add five cup fulls of water (1000ml) and mix everything.

11) Add the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 20 minutes.

12) Check to see it is cooked and if it needs more water. The channa daal should be soft. If it’s not allow it to cook for another 10 minutes with lid on. Check if the daal needs more water and if it does add a few more cups

13) If the channa dahl is soft but the dahl is very dry add more water and allow to cook with lid off.

13) Add half a lemons juice and stir in and let it heat for five more minutes with the lid off.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, allow the channa dal to soak over night with 2cm of water covering the dal. Also fry the dhudi for 15 minutes or until it is soft. Once the dal is in there cook the whole thing until it’s the right consistency.



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5 Comments on “Protein Packed Autumnal Dhal”

  1. Hi Nisha it’s was lovely meeting an staying (at Anju s place twice ) talking to your mum she is a lovely soul really nice pics love Saira Hamdi x

  2. Your recipes are wonderful! I came across your website after reading an article in TIMEmagazine which had been sent to a friend of mine by Liv O’H. What views do you have on rice with curry?

    Thanks. Patricia Rutherford

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